Raising Education Standards: The Key To Better Policing?


Reposted from ThinkProgress:

President Obama launched the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to explore ways to “build public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities that they protect, while also promoting effective crime reduction.” Yet as officers and civilians explore solutions to what is perceived as a national crisis, the answer may be as simple as raising the education requirements for job applicants. Research, while limited, suggests a positive correlation between education and job performance, as data spanning several decades show that officers with a college education are subjected to fewer disciplinary measures than ones with a high school diploma.

In 2003, the Bureau of Justice Statistics determined that 98 percent of all police departments instituted an education requirement. The vast majority, or 81 percent, of those departments required a high school diploma, whereas 1 percent required a four-year college degree. For instance, the largest police departments in the U.S. have authority to establish their own education standards. Los Angeles Police Department applicants must have a high school diploma, G.E.D., or California High School Proficiency Examination certificate. The New York Police Department requires 60 college credits or a high school diploma and two years of military service. And candidates for the Chicago Police Department need 60 hours of college courses or four years of active military service.

In his book, Research in Law Enforcement Selection, Radford University professor Mike Aamodt writes that criminal justice experts and law enforcement commissions have urged police departments to rethink their educational standards for decades. The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration (COLEA), a task force created by Lyndon B. Johnson, endorsed a four-year degree requirement in 1967. The National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals offered a similar suggestion six years later, which was followed by an endorsement by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in 1988. Today, many criminal justice experts believe that higher education standards should be enforced nationwide.

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